---- — By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- With a win on Senior Day last year, Susquehanna's women's basketball brought its season to a close with an 8-17 record.
The top two leading scorers from a year ago, Gina Palazzi and Shannon Grunwald, are gone and Susquehanna coach Jim Reed has a host of newcomers to fill their shoes.
Palazzi was named second-team all-conference following her senior season and Grunwald was a threat from behind the arc and at the free-throw line.
"(Palazzi and Grunwald) are definitely big players to replace," Reed said. "I don't know that we're replacing them with one player. We're replacing them with several players."
Of the 20 players on the roster, 13 will make their Crusaders' debut this season.
In the preseason Landmark Conference poll, the Crusaders were picked to finish sixth and will see plenty of new faces behind a relatively experienced backcourt led by junior Jonaida Williams and senior Mariah Monahan at the two guard slots.
Williams said the team has multiple players that can score, preventing defenses from focusing on one player.
Williams and Monahan are the top two returning scorers from a young team a year ago. Williams averaged 11.4 points per game last year to tie Palazzi for the team lead while Monahan averaged nine per game, making 24 starts in the backcourt.
Reed said that Monahan started to shine during the second half of the season last year and has continued her form from a year ago.
"We have a lot of talent this year. We have a lot of (players), too, compared to last year," Williams said. "We can definitely be a winning team this year."
While on the surface, the Crusaders' record from last year may not appear successful, the Crusaders lost three games last season by a single point, including two games in conference.
"From last year to this year, I think we have a totally different environment," Reed said. "So far in the preseason, things have been going great. The team's working hard. The chemistry is very good."
Reed added that he expects the many new players on the roster to add energy to the mix for the Crusaders.
While the Crusaders have a number of holes to fill, Reed said that the incoming class brings size and depth to the roster which he said can make a difference.
According to Reed, the height of his team near the basket can help to open the perimeter on offense, making his team two-dimensional from the outside and inside as well as putting pressure on opposing teams on defense.
Among the recruits to the team are a pair of six-foot centers in 6-0 Andreana MacIvor and 6-1 Anna Bojakowski to pair with Jackie Clarke down low.
As evidence of the depth of this year's squad, in a recent scrimmage against Dickinson, the Crusaders came out on top despite having three players inactive as a result of minor injuries, according to Reed.
Williams said that the talent of her incoming teammates has been evident early in practice and in scrimmages.
While exact roles for his team have not been determined, Reed said that he believes he has up to six forwards that he can rotate in and out of the lineup based on who happens to be playing well without a significant drop in skill.
"(Depth) is a good problem to have," Reed said.